I suspect that many of you did not see the article in yesterday’s Medina Gazette about the Avon interchange and NOACA (http://wp2.medina-gazette.com/?s=county+weighs). In it, Commissioner Steve Hambley – a leading voice of regionalism and a member of the NOACA Board – lamented that Avon had a “gun to its head.” According to the article, the Medina commissioners are even considering pulling out of NOACA so as not to be put in the same position. Brunswick city manager Bob Zienkowski was even quoted as saying that the Avon deal “is the best of example of why regionalism won’t work here. It’s a prelude of what’s coming.”
Without a doubt, getting to the Avon deal was a painful process that generated hard feeling. And from what I understand, it involved a considerable amount of cajoling, arm-twisting, and public posturing. It is understandable why Bob, Steve, and others would express concern.
But it would be wrong to conclude that this should cause us to beat a retreat from more regional approaches – quite the contrary, let this be a call for us to find more comprehensive, forward-looking approach so we can avoid this sort of situation in the future.
First, it is pointless to talk about being “for” or “against” regionalism, much as one might talk about whether they are “for” or “against” sunrises. Regionalism is a fact of life in the early 21st century; it is how economies organize. The only question is WHAT KIND of regionalism we want. I would assert that the uncoordinated, unplanned, beggar-thy-neighbor approach we have had to date is what has led to tumultuous transactional situations like the one we witnessed with Avon.
NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO WALK AWAY FROM THE TABLE. Do that, and we will just have more and increasingly acrimonious disagreements on how taxpayer dollars should be used and for whose benefits. Instead, let’s use this as a moment to spur the real conversation about how we want to involve and what steps we might take to focus on growing the resources of the region rather than moving them from one place to another.
Fortunately, the Northeast Ohio Mayors and Managers are doing just that with their effort to explore revenue sharing for new growth opportunities. I suspect many people initially viewed this work as an interesting thought exercise; it now assumes vital proportions.
And might this most recent situation create an opportunity for NOACA to reexamine how to define its mandate? Or if not NOACA, how else might we come together as a collective regional community to determine how to best align our physical development with our economic development. I am sure we can come to an accommodation that beats the status quo many times over (a low threshold, I know!).
Let’s hope that we will look back on the situation in Avon as the transition point to a new era in the investment of our scarce public resources to the greatest effect.
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